Tip: Getting word counts from Excel files

Getting word counts from Microsoft® Excel files is a common and frustrating task for translators and writers and general.

One common approach is to save the worksheet as a text file, then open that in Word and use the Word Count feature. This approach has some problems, though: you can only save one worksheet at a time, and text in text boxes isn’t saved, so you could end up with a word count that’s too low. Not to mention the time and hassle involved.

About a year ago, I did a huge translation that literally consisted of hundreds of Excel files and thousands of worksheets. Counting the words in each file using the MS Word method would have driven me batty.

If you use Windows and often need to get word counts from Excel files, I recommend my free program, Count Anything. Just click the “Count” button, drag and drop your Excel files into the dialog, and click OK.

Drag and drop Excel files into the dialog box

You’ll end up with a nicely formatted report that you can drill down on, print, or save as an HTML or text file.

Results of Excel file word count

Click here to download the free Count Anything program.


What are these “.fhist” files next to my MS Word files?

If you’ve installed Felix version 1.4 or later, you might notice that “.fhist” files are created next to your MS Word or Excel files when you translate them. This is due to a new feature of Felix called translation history. Translation history makes it easier to revise your translations, and reflect your edits in your translation memory. For details about translation history, see here for Word and here for Excel.

If you don’t need this feature or don’t want these files to be created, then you can disable translation history in the preferences.

In Word, from the Felix menu select Felix Preferences, then go to the “Translation History” tab and clear the checkbox.

In Excel, go to Felix >> User Preferences, and do the same.

Other tools

Using Microsoft Excel as a glossary-conversion tool

As translators, we get glossaries in all sorts of formats: XML, HTML, tab-delimited text, comma-separated value (CSV), …

A good example is the Microsoft terminology glossary: a monstrous CSV file of terminology used for localizing Microsoft user interafaces.

We often need to convert these glossaries into other formats, especially to get them into a terminology management program. Microsoft Excel is actually a great tool for doing this. It can open all the formats listed above, and more. Using Felix, you could then import the glossary directly, or if you’re using some other tool, you could save the glossary in many popular formats, such as tab-delimited text or csv; chances are your terminology manager will support one of them.

Another cool trick with Excel is loading glossaries from the Internet. When Excel is installed, the context menu in Internet Explorer gets an “Export to Microsoft Excel” command; so when you have a glossary in a table on a website, you can simply right click on it, export it to Excel, and from there put it into any of a number of formats.

Export to Microsoft Excel menu selection

Of course, there are limitations to using Excel as an intermediary for glossary conversion. The main one is when terminology managers use special formats, which Excel can’t interpret in a meaningful way. In this case, you can often get around it by using one of the generic “save as” file options of your terminology manager.